Healthline diet score: 1.79 out of 5

Herbalife is a multilevel marketing company that sells nutritional supplements and personal care products in more than 90 countries around the world.

One of their products is the Herbalife weight loss program, which uses meal replacement shakes and dietary supplements to help people slim down.

While quick-fix diets like the Herbalife program can help people lose weight in the short term, they can be expensive and may not be sustainable.

This article reviews the pros and cons of the Herbalife diet program to help you decide whether it might work for you.

RATING SCORE BREAKDOWN
  • Overall score: 1.79
  • Weight loss: 2
  • Healthy eating: 2.25
  • Sustainability: 2.5
  • Whole body health: 1
  • Nutrition quality: 1.5
  • Evidence-based: 1.5

BOTTOM LINE: The Herbalife diet is pricey and involves highly processed shakes and many supplements, some of which have been linked to negative health effects. Short-term use likely causes weight loss, but long-term effectiveness is yet to be studied.

How does it work?

Getting started on the Herbalife diet requires a few simple steps.

Step 1: Connect with an Herbalife independent distributor

Since Herbalife is a multilevel marketing business, their products are only available for purchase through Herbalife independent distributors.

You can connect with a distributor directly on the Herbalife website or via personal connections if you know a certified retailer.

Step 2: Choose your weight loss program

The next step is to pick the Herbalife weight loss program that’s right for you. There are three versions to choose from:

  1. The Quickstart Program: includes meal-replacement shakes, a powdered tea drink, a multivitamin/mineral (MVM), and a metabolism-boosting supplement
  2. The Advanced Program: includes everything from the Quickstart Program, plus two more supplements for increasing energy and reducing fluid retention
  3. The Ultimate Program: includes everything from the Advanced Program, plus two additional supplements for blood sugar management and digestion

These programs range in price from roughly $121–234 per month.

Step 3: Begin the Herbalife diet

Following the Herbalife diet is relatively easy.

Simply replace two meals each day with Herbalife shakes and take the supplements that come with the program you purchased.

There are no dietary restrictions on the Herbalife diet, but it’s generally advised to drink plenty of water and eat small, frequent meals and snacks that include plenty of fruits and vegetables.

There are no official recommendations for how long you should stay on the Herbalife diet, but most people continue until they reach their weight loss goal.

SUMMARY

To get started on the Herbalife program, simply connect with an Herbalife distributor, purchase the program of your choice, and start consuming the shakes and supplements.

Can it help you lose weight?

The Herbalife diet is designed to help people lose weight by reducing calorie intake with meal replacement shakes and boosting metabolism with supplements.

There haven’t been any studies on the full Herbalife weight loss program, but the meal replacement shakes do appear to help with weight loss.

Herbalife meal replacement shakes

Each serving (two scoops or 25 grams) of the Herbalife meal replacement shake mix contains (1):

  • Calories: 90
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 13 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 9 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams

When mixed with 8 ounces (240 mL) of nonfat milk, the mix provides 170 calories per serving and is intended to be a low calorie meal replacement.

In general, meal replacement shakes can help you lose weight when used for up to 1 year (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).

In fact, research suggests that they may be more effective for short-term weight loss than traditional low calorie diets (4Trusted Source).

Only one study, which Herbalife sponsored, has tested the effectiveness of Herbalife shakes specifically.

This study found that people who replaced 2 meals per day with Herbalife shakes lost an average 12.5 pounds (5 kg) in 12 weeks (5Trusted Source).

Research is lacking on the long-term benefits of meal replacement shakes, but at least one study suggested that they may help to prevent weight gain over several years (6Trusted Source).

A second study found that people who used meal replacement shakes for 3 months before transitioning to a low calorie diet weighed less after 4 years than those who only dieted (7Trusted Source).

Overall, research suggests that meal replacement shakes can help people to lose weight in the short term, but additional diet and lifestyle strategies may be needed for long-term weight loss and weight maintenance.

Herbalife supplements

The supplements recommended in the Herbalife weight loss programs include:

  • Formula 2 Multivitamin: a standard multivitamin with several minerals for general nutrition
  • Formula 3 Cell Activator: a supplement with alpha-lipoic acid, aloe vera, pomegranate, rhodiola, pine bark, and resveratrol that claims to support nutrient absorption, metabolism, and mitochondrial health
  • Herbal Tea Concentrate: a powdered drink mix with tea extracts and caffeine that’s meant to provide extra energy and antioxidant support
  • Total Control: a supplement containing caffeine, ginger, three kinds of tea (green, black, and oolong), and pomegranate rind that claims to boost energy
  • Cell-U-Loss: a supplement containing electrolytes, corn silk extract, parsley, dandelion, and asparagus root that’s meant to reduce water retention
  • Snack Defense: a supplement containing chromium and Gymnema sylvestre extract that claims to support carbohydrate metabolism
  • Aminogen: a supplement containing protease enzymes, which are said to improve protein digestion

While these supplements contain many ingredients and claim to help with energy, metabolism, and weight loss, there have been no studies to prove their effectiveness.

Additionally, supplements aren’t regulated by any government agency for quality or purity, so there’s no guarantee that they contain the ingredients advertised.

SUMMARY

Replacing two meals per day with Herbalife shakes can lead to modest weight loss, but it’s unknown whether the supplements that are part of the program have any additional benefit.